I realize that Starfleet grew out of the United Earth Space Probe Agency, and that Starfleet is headquartered in San Francisco, but given that Starfleet officers and cadets come from many planets in the Federation, why are Starship names so Earth-centric, even in the 24th Century?

Are there examples of Starfleet ships with names originating in other space cultures? One example I know of is the USS T'Kumbra, a ship with a Vulcan-only crew in "Take Me Out to the Holosuite". This seems, however, more like a "gift" by Starfleet to the captain of that vessel, who was one of Starfleet's most decorated officers at the time.

Are there other examples?

Note: I treat this question as distinct from

Why is the Federation's primary defense fleet (Starfleet) dominated by humans?

Whether or not Starfleet is still mostly staffed by humans in the 24th Century, one might imagine the organization would aim for pan-Federation inclusiveness, and a place to start would be vessel names.

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    As a resident of another planet in the Federation, I am so glad you brought this up. It's always bothered me how much more the Earth audience matters to these writers. #yesallplanets
    – rsegal
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 16:20
  • For reference, Memory Alpha's list of Federation starships and Wikipedia's list of Starfleet starships
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 17:03
  • @Izkata - There's a few non-human names in there. Gorkon for one.
    – Valorum
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 17:19
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    @rsegal I don't know of any class-M planets 8 light-hours from Earth . . .
    – geometrian
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 0:37
  • 1
    @imallett, a Warp-capable sneakernet has lower latency than light.
    – rsegal
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 1:23

5 Answers 5


On TNG, DS9 and VOY the Starfleet crews are primarily human with some sporadic representation of other races. Ds9 sort of breaks the mold but they had to as the show was set at Bajor and they had to have Bajorans outnumber everyone else put together. Even then, the Bajorans are Bajoran Militia and not Starfleet.

So why? The answer is that, even in the 24th century, Starfleet is still largely a human organization.

Benzar was a very important world in the Federation and it was devastating when the Dominion conquered it during the war. However, Mordock was the first Benzite to go to Starfleet Academy at the same time Wesley Crusher was taking his (first round of) entrance exams. Meanwhile, Mendon served on board the Enterprise as part of an officer exchange and referenced protocol on board a Benzite ship in A Matter of Honor. That indicates that at least some Federation members maintain their own fleets and or militaries.

The idea of other fleets/militaries inside the Federation is further implied in Unification when Vulcan ships are used to conceal a Romulan invasion of Vulcan and in Gambit when T'Paal poses as a member of Vulcan (not Starfleet) Intelligence. While the ships could be science or military (or any other kind of) vessels and it's never stated on screen it is clear that Vulcan maintains its own fleet and it's further clear that not ALL of the security of Vulcan has been integrated into Starfleet.

Finally, in the Dauphin, when asked what species is aboard the Enterprise, Picard promptly responds with human. That at least implies that he considers his crew to be primarily human (which we see is true through the course of the series).

So if Starfleet is primarily Human, then it would make sense to use Earth centric names.

Edit: I realized that I didn't answer the question that was asked.

Specifically, the OP asked if there were examples, other than the T'Kumbra, of Starfleet ships with names based on non human cultures. The answer is probably and some were pointed out in a previous answer.

That said, as a predominantly human organization, a member, event, place of significance etc. in another culture would have to have a major impact on humanity, or the whole of Federation society to warrant its name being used on a Starfleet ship. For example, Kahless the Unforgettable (not the clone) was of major importance to the Klingons but had little, if any, impact on humanity or the Federation as a whole. That said, it's unlikely that there would ever be a USS Kahless. For the same reason, an IKS MacArthur would be equally unlikely.

  • geewhiz, I've accepted your answer --- it is very good, and it is the most complete. That being said, your analogy at the end is a little flawed, at least to me. There is of course an accord between the Federation and the Klingons, but the Klingon Empire is distinct from the Federation. I was wondering about non-Earth names for ships that are inspired by other member worlds of the Federation.
    – Praxis
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 5:02
  • @Praxis You are correct. It would be more precise to substitute Surak and the Vulcans for Kahless and the Klingons but the sentiment remains.
    – geewhiz
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 5:06
  • We can project the situation to todays supernational organizations. Todays namesake ship ("Khaptain, the name is ... Enterprise") has almost exclusively United States personnel, whereas ships from other NATO states have local names and personnel. Only occasionally, there are exchanges or common manouevers Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 10:47

USS D'hjty: The name has no reference to Human culture, possibly Vulcan?

USS G’Mat: The name has no reference to Human culture, possibly Vulcan?

USS Gorkon: Named after Klingon chancellor Gorkon.

USS ShirKahr: Named after the Vulcan capital city.

USS Sitak: Likely named for Vulcan Admiral Sitak.

USS T’Kumbra: Likely named for Vulcan scientist T’Kumbra.

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    What about USS prefix?
    – user931
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 23:53
  • @SachinShekhar They're still Federation ships. Federation ships have the Federation prefix.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 23:58
  • @Kevin USS has Earth's origin..
    – user931
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 0:06
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    @SachinShekhar USS was first used for the US, but it's still used for Starfleet after the US ceased to be.
    – Kevin
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 0:10
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    According to Memory Alpha, USS on Star Trek means United Space Ship or United Star Ship en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/USS
    – geewhiz
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 4:59

Because even as culturally diverse as starfleet is, it's still majorly a humans only club. Vulcans are for the most part still on a moral high horse in TNG, Andorians basically a retcon, and I forget the name of the fourth founding planet. Vulcans still maintain their own science fleet, and their culture of logic over emotions makes them think of humans as inferior.

the majority of starfleet ships are mainly recurring human designs, with little if any non human design influence. Considering the UFP is centered around San Francisco, is it any surprise that humans still dominate it? NYC is the cultural capital of Earth today, the majority of students in NYC are new York metro area residents.

Starfleet also has a habit of reusing names.

But the biggest reason is audience connection.

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    'NYC is the cultural capital of Earth today' --- citation needed. ;)
    – DGM
    Commented Jan 25, 2015 at 23:03
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    @DGM It's actually Atlantis, controlling our culture from Hollow Earth by hijacking EM waves to mess with our miiiinds! =o_o=
    – Izkata
    Commented Jan 26, 2015 at 4:29

This has always bothered me too. It would have been another great way to Universe-build.

Not sure if it's cannon, but 'The Dominion War Sourcebook: The Fires of Armageddon' lists:

USS Fe'garren; USS Ka'thela; USS Koral; USS Kymyr; USS Nath'qu; USS Pel-Gaash; USS Shima'van;

which seems to been non-Earth based named ships.


I think a lot of it has to do with budget. It is a lot easier / simpler (and more affordable) to have a bunch of human actors in makeup, then to have a ton of "aliens" in prosthesis, rubber suits, molds, etc. Even when you do see aliens, they are far and few. (Might have a few Borgs, Klingons, Romulans, etc, but still a lot more humans). Bajorans were the most dominant alien race shown, because their makeup was the easiest. (Plop on an earring, and some nose-ridges... DONE!)

A lot of alien ship images and footage are reused (especially evident in DS9 during the Dominion War - last couple seasons), as it is easier than creating new CGI images for alien vessels. Watch the Destruction of the Bird of Prey in "Star Trek 6: Undiscovered Country", then watch the same footage, reused again in: "Star Trek: Generations". All due to time and budget constraints. It is simply, easier, and more efficient, than to recreate a whole new sequence.

  • 2
    What on earth does this have to do with the question about naming of vessels??
    – Praxis
    Commented Mar 25, 2015 at 5:08

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